LUMBERTON — Races for three of the four seats on the Robeson County Board of Commissioners up for election will be settled by voters on Tuesday. Only in District 7, which is now represented by Democrat Tom Taylor, will there be a contested race between a Democrat and Republican when the General Election is held in November.
On Tuesday, Democrats will choose the commissioners who will begin new four-year terms in Districts 1, 3 and 5. No Republicans are running for those seats.
District 7 GOP voters Tuesday will elect a nominee to face Taylor in November.
In District 5, incumbent Democrat Raymond Cummings is facing Lacy Cummings again. The two candidates battled for the seat in 2008, with Raymond Cummings coming out on top by 203 votes.
The incumbent, a resident of Philadelphus, has been a commissioner for 16 years. He is employed as the Transportation director for the Public Schools of Robeson County.
“People want to see efficient government,” Raymond Cummings said. “That’s why we (commissioners) try to evaluate all of our operations. We want to operate efficiently and keep taxes as low as possible … . I’m one who while on the board has pushed for reduced taxes or no tax increases.”
Raymond Cummings said the county is “very strong financially,” and in spite of a sour economy has been able to construct buildings — such as the new DSS complex and emergency communications building — and still maintain a strong fund balance.
“Job creation is the top issue that people are concerned about,” Raymond Cummings said. “We concentrate a lot of our efforts on job creation. I’m concerned that we continue to recruit and maintain good quality jobs. It’s an never-ending struggle.”
Lacy Cummings owns a farm and is also the owner of both Pembroke Tire and the NAPA auto parts store in Pembroke. He is a resident of the Mt. Airy community. He said that his platform includes a call for financial responsibility.
“We have to make sure that waste is cut out of the budget,” he said.
Lacy Cummings said that he is independent, dependable and keeps his promises. As a commissioner, he said, he would be visible throughout the county, making sure that the best interest of taxpayers is being served at all times.
“The county’s hiring process and the bidding process on contracts is unfair to the people,” he said. “In regards to hiring, all available positions should be advertised in publications, and there should be more in-house promotion of county employees.”
Lacy Cumming said that his main interest for serving on the board is to “look after the taxpayers.”
“I can bring honesty and integrity to the table,” he said. “… People are ready for change.”
In District 3, incumbent Roger Oxendine, a Democrat from Rowland, is being challenged by Pembroke businessman Mickey Locklear. Oxendine, an agri-businessman, said that job creation is a major priority for him and fellow commissioners.
“We’re working diligently to bring new jobs into the county,” he said. “But with the economy as bad as it is, it is hard to get businesses to come to the area.”
Oxendine said that as the commissioners prepare the next fiscal year’s budget, they are looking for ways to make necessary cuts without hurting existing services or “doing away with county jobs.”
The commissioner pointed to the new DSS building, emergency communications center, and establishment of new safer and cleaner Dumpster sites throughout the county as evidence the county continues to move forward. He also said that the county is generating revenue at the county landfill by producing from methane gas and selling power, and is moving ahead on plans to locate a number of related county services at the old DSS complex so that residents don’t have to go to more than one location to obtain such things as zoning and construction permits.
“I love helping the people of the county, and I think I bring a lot of experience to the table,” Oxendine said. “I hope to be re-elected because I still have a lot of visions that I am going to put out on the table.”
Locklear, has worked for the McDonald’s corporation for 32 years, and has managed the McDonald’s in Pembroke since 2005. This is his second attempt to win the District 3 seat.
“It’s time for a change,” Locklear said. “I have no problem with Roger. We are friends. But I can bring new ideas to the board. When someone holds a seat too long, they can become too comfortable.’
According to Locklear, steps need to be taken to encourage new industries to locate in Robeson County.
“We need high-paying jobs,” he said. “We need industries here, and if that means supplying incentives that’s what needs to be done.”
Locklear also said that more attention needs to be put on keeping county roadsides clean.
“People look at all of the trash on the roadsides when they travel through the county,” he said. “Let’s make our roads look good.”
Locklear said his policy from day one would be to question every vote taken by the board.
“My approach will be to ask how any action taken will affect all the people of Robeson County,” he said.
Democrats in District 1 can vote to re-elect incumbent Jerry Stephens or political newcomer James Smith.
Stephens, a Lumberton resident, has been a commissioner for six years. He owns and operates United Professional Services Insurance Agency, Jerry Stephens and Associates Marketing Firm, and Jerry Stephens and Sons Used Cars.
“Jobs, schools and the county’s high crime rate are the major issues those in the county are concerned about,” he said. “The board is working to address these issues during our budget sessions.”
Stephens said that as a member of the board, he has helped to lower taxes, provide needed facilities such as the new DSS building and emergency operations center, and to implement programs that are aimed at reducing crime.
“We (board members) have worked well together to get these projects done,” Stephens said. “We work well as a team.”
Smith is seeking his first elected public office. He is retired from the Lumberton Police Department, where he served as the department’s Project Safe Neighborhoods community coordinator. He has also worked with U.S. Airways-Inc., was an airport manager for Hertz Rental Corporation, and was a district manager for Crown Central Petroleum Corporation.
Smith said that solving the problems of Robeson County should be the priority of every commissioner.
“County commissioners should be accountable to the people,” he said. “They should let their constituents know what they are doing.”
Smith points to the county’s high crime rate.
“We have to bring the crime rate down before we can get new businesses and jobs into the county. We have to get people trained for jobs.’
Smith said that the coming together of local government leaders from across the county could result in many of the county’s problems being solved.
“There is power in numbers,” he said. “We need to come together and have conversations as Robeson County leaders. We have to get away from the “me” idea and think about all of the people in Robeson County. They are the ones who are hurting.”
Smith said that he believes there is a solution for every problem.
“We just need to keep digging until we find the solution,” he said.
In Tuesday’s only contested GOP race, District 7, two political newcomers are on the ballot. They are the Rev. Dennis Harrell, of Lumberton, and James “Joey” McLellan, a resident of Ivey’s Crossroads.
Harrell managed a fertilizer plant for Kaiser Agri-chemicals in the 1970s before attending Fruitland Bible Institute. He moved to Lumberton in 1985 and served as pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church from 1985 to 2010. He is now retired from full-time ministry.
Harrell said that one of the reasons he is running for the board is to help find ways to improve economic conditions for Robeson County residents.
“We have so many people who can’t support a decent lifestyle because there are no jobs,” he said. “I believe that with my
business and church background and experience I can make suggestions that can help move us move out of the economic doldrums we are in. If we keep taking the same highway, we are going to get to the same place. We need a new vision and a new voice on the board to bring some economic vitality to the area.”
Harrell suggests that a master plan for the county’s economic growth be created. The plan, he said, should have input from not just community political leaders, but from education leaders, business leaders, young people and others in the community.
McLellan could not be reached to comment for this story.
According to information provided when he filed as a candidate, McLellan is pursuing a degree in Criminal Jjustice at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He is a disabled U.S. Navy veteran, having served in the Navy from 2000 to 2004.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.